Divorcing The Narcissist Part One: The Overview
By: Alisa Geffner

Valentine’s Day

I remember when I was a little girl being fascinated by the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothes.  Apparently, I am not the only one.  This was one of the first books I pulled off the shelf to read to my son who was born in 2011 (first published in 1837).  The concept is also one I am sure comes up in many conversations between parents and children, siblings (about the other sibling) and friends (about the other friend).  The fact that people’s perception of the truth is not alwaysreality is a baffling concept…one that a person divorcing a narcissist is experiencing right now.  

DSM-5 defines a narcissist as follows:

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.  People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success, or about their appearance.  They often take advantage of the people around them.  This behavior typically begins by early adulthood and occurs across a variety of social situations.

In my practice, I have found that the dynamic between couples where one is a narcissist is similar in most cases.  The other spouse is usually one with a more deferential and giving personality.  Now, this works when the couple is together but when facing a separation, this dynamic no longer works for the one separating from the narcissist.  Why?  Because when you worked with the narrative and perception the narcissist is creating during your marriage, you were the ally.  Now, this perception is being threatened (by perhaps the fact that the vision of a happy marriage with wonderful children and a white picket fence is not the reality). This is the time for you to gain your own power back to create a life that is best for you (and your children), not one this is best for the narcissistic spouse.

The first step in achieving this newfound power may be to file for divorce first.  Otherwise, you will be held mentally captive by a person who will threaten divorce time and time again, but never go through with it because it is truly not in line with the motive of keeping up a wholesome family appearance.  Or, if the narcissist files first, it allows that person to create the new narrative at your expense.

Second, believe in yourself.  When you are programmed by a narcissist you are caught up in a wave of ultimate self-doubt even during the most ordinary life events.  The narcissist’s kryptonite is THE TRUTH.  Now, you do not have to convince the narcissist himself/herself (which will not happen), nor the attorney representing him/her. You must feel comfortable in your representation that you are being heard and advocated for in the process.  Your attorney should be able to guide you before, and during the process, on how to gather facts and information that will aid in achieving your ultimate goals when it comes to your children and the finances.

Lastly, do not back down.  There will be times during the process when you just cannot take it anymore.  It’s too much to bear.  Remain focused on the end goal…to remove yourself from a toxic relationship where you are really an actor in his/her play.  When you come out to the other side of this, you will find YOU.